From the olive groves of Gytheon, Southern Peloponnese, Greece to the cobblestoned streets of Old Port, Portland, Maine comes a shop like no other. The spices, flavors, aromas, stories and communities of the world are lovingly packed into a brick and mortar built from the ground up, with love by the Karonis family. Meet SKORDO.
Courtesy of the Karonis family
Now SKORDO business owner John Karonis always sought out the ingredients to a good dish. Cooking gave him infinite room to create—and it runs in the family. When John's grandmother immigrated from Gytheon, Greece, she raised her son Peter in Chelsea, MA in the humble, local community of hard-working, Greek immigrants close to their patriarcal dishes. Mr. Peter Karonis then sparked the love of cooking in his son John, and a passion for the kitchen was born. John grew up with stories and recipes of his Hellenic heritage from his father, often cooking keftedes (Greek meatballs) together, among many other dishes created with love and joy. A learned curiosity and appreciation was born on the movement of people throughout history, and its impact on cuisine.
John eventually joined the naval academy as an adult and created a family of his own—two daughters Anne and Erin. They traveled and lived domestically and abroad throughout childhood, with food serving as a corner stone to their family and a common thread no matter where they found themselves. Cooking was the vehicle to immerse themselves in local cultures they itched to know more of—Friday nights included everything from Indian to pizza, kneading the dough or taste-testing the pepperoni, growing in them a desire to learn and taste the world.
"Skordo [the Greek word for ‘garlic’] is inclusive because garlic is used around the world—it’s not an ingredient limited to just one place."
When Anne and Erin graduated college, their now step-mother Cari entered their lives and slowly the idea for SKORDO grew. "We always wanted to work together. We felt like there was a hole in the market for a true lifestyle cooking store. One day, we were sitting around the computer thinking of words that meant something to us." And SKORDO was born. SKORDO represents the Karonis family and the fibers, textures, and essences that make them who they are—garlic as a staple ingredient rooting them in their Hellenic heritage, yet also encompassing a love of global cuisine.
With family roots in Maine, Portland became the natural choice for a store that they aspired to feel authentic and earthy, a place to inspire and empower the home cook, as their tagline states. Each member of the family contributes and has their own unique role in the business. Although an original founder, Erin has now focused on a career outside of SKORDO. Anne owns creative direction and content, aiding Cari in layouts and store design. Cari sources the products and leads the creative strategy, while John focuses on operations and production, now boasting two locations in The Old Port, Portland, Maine and The Maine Mall, South Portland, Maine.
"Our spices come from over 20 countries around the world. We take pride in what’s on our shelves. Our rule is if we don’t have it in our own kitchen, then it won’t be in the store.”
And what about all of SKORDO's incredible blends, rubs, spices, oils and more? They're tested for purity and the highest quality. Being a small business allows the Karonis' to be truly creative and take ownership of their brand, working with a small team of importers they trust to decide what goes into their store. The best part? All of the blends and rubs are made in-house (and the Greek Oregano, Garlic, Garam Masala are just a few Karonis family-favorites). By inviting in interesting aromas and colors, homemade-jarred specialities with charming decor, SKORDO looks and feels like an extension of your own kitchen, Mediterranean and beyond.
Want a piece of SKORDO under the tree for the holidays? Here are a few hand-picked items, with a mix of Greek-owned and small business owners alike, for unique and soul-filling stocking stuffers that will delight the senses and inspire in the kitchen.
All photos courtesy of SKORDO
This 4 jar spice set includes Greek seasoning, Tzatziki spice blend (with the Karonis family recipe on the back!), Cyprus Flaked Salt, and Greek Lamb Rub.
The perfect, sparkly addition to any holiday bar cart, for extra classy cocktails and fabulous occasions. Ethically crafted in small batches.
3. Aegean: Recipes from Mountain to Sea
An inspiring collection of Greek recipes with a spin on classic dishes, Marianna Leivaditaki grew up on island of Crete, helping in her family's taverna. As head chef of Morito in Hackney, her recipes have a soulful twist.
4. Runamok Lemon Verbena Honey
This citrus honey is perfect for afternoon tea, or just plain bread. Runamok is family owned and New England based, crafting maple syrups, bitters, honey and more.
Hand crafted in India, these beautiful hammered cheese knife set are sure to wow cheese lovers (and hosts) alike.
6. Runamok Maple Old Fashioned Cocktail Syrup
Using 100% organic maple syrup, this mixer is balanced by the bite of Runamok bitters. Combine with bourbon for the perfect Old Fashioned in a flash.
7. Lemon Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil—Kouzini
A Greek-owned business sourcing directly from Lakonia, Greece (and the same area where the Karonis family's ancestry is from) olives are hand-picked and pressed within hours of harvest. Adding to the rich olive flavor is lemon, for a citrusy surprise on your next dish.
This gorgeous handmade cherry rack contains smoked, savory, spicy and textured salts for an extra special touch to any meal.
All photos courtesy of SKORDO & the Karonis family